LDS author John Pontius pointed out in his book “Following the Light of Christ into His Presence” that we all go through periods in our spiritual growth where we seem to plateau out, and sometimes even digress. These periods of relative depression typically follow periods of intense growth, and are most certainly followed by another period of more rapid progression. He wisely pointed out that we need to be careful during these periods of stagnant growth not to be too concerned, as this is simply part of the way we grow – part of the way we create, and are created. Even the Lord rested after 6 days of creation. I believe these periods help us to solidify our gains, so to speak, and perhaps rest up for a growth spurt to come.
Even though I read this book twice, I recently had to be reminded of the principle by my friend, Liesl Elmer. Her comment brought me a measure of comfort, and perhaps even signaled the end of the recent plateau. I had been growing concerned and frustrated by the fact that I was not inspired to write, that the heavens seemed silent, and that I was constantly questioning myself and the things I had already learned and experienced. Perhaps this feels familiar to you.
One of the blessings of the spirit that I have never knowingly experienced, but which I long for, is the ministering of angels. Such ministering is featured prominently in the scriptures:
And because he hath done this, my beloved brethren, have miracles ceased? Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither have angels ceased to minister unto the children of men. (Moroni 7:29)
Behold I say unto you, Nay; for it is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain. (Moroni 7:37)
And it came to pass that while the angels were ministering unto the disciples, behold, Jesus came and stood in the midst and ministered unto them. (3 Nephi 19:15)
There are, of course, many other mentions of this ministering – over which the Aaronic priesthood holds the keys. (D&C 84:26) I don’t mean to wallow in self-pity, but I sure could have used a ministering angel over the past few weeks. I prayed one time “Lord, this is hard!” He said, “It’s not supposed to be easy right now”. “Sheesh”, I said, “that doesn’t really help now, does it?”
However, sometimes we need to be willing to recognize when the Lord does send us angels in a form other than a heavenly visitation, and we need to be thankful for them. I said above that I had “never knowingly” experienced the ministering of angels. During the week of July 23, I knowingly experienced the ministering of angels, and only one of them – my dear wife, Diana, who is the brightest angel any man could ever ask for – was even a member of the LDS church. Their words and their actions pierced my heart in a unique, confirming and warming way. I would like to tell the story of these visitations in my next few posts.
First, some background. There is a singer/songwriter who gained a cult following from about 1975 to 1985 named Kate Wolf. Diana and I both love her music – it is as
heavenly and spiritual as any music I have ever heard. Her songs are sweet, poignant, happy, sad, loving and so very, very real. They testify of Christ in so many ways, even though she doesn’t mention His name even once. I’m sure the Lord is a fan. One of my favorite Kate Wolf songs is one that Diana and I play ourselves called “Green Eyes”. We have the opening line of this song engraved on the inside of our wedding rings. Kate’s career was cut short in 1986 by leukemia. In about 2001 we were in the area of Grass Valley, CA and decided we would go find Goodyear’s Bar, CA, where Kate was reportedly buried. Well, we found the town, found the grave, and also found a bed and breakfast – the only business in this village of about 50-60 people. A couple of years later we came back for the first of our three stays at the “Helms St. Charles Inn”.
That was when we met Mark and Tammy Helms. They had bought the St. Charles Hotel in the mid 90’s, and brought courage, modest skills, and a beautiful vision to the town of Goodyear’s Bar and to the dilapidated hotel. There were no guarantees that they could make a go of it but they came anyway. And they stayed.
We found that Tammy would typically sit and chat with us while we ate the breakfast she had crafted for us. On our first visit, they invited us to share dogs and burgers with them and their family on a Sunday afternoon. The next visit, after playing a few of our songs for them, we sat around with some of the family members, including the patriarch Cy, and listened to stories about Goodyear’s Bar, the rowdy history of the St. Charles Hotel and Saloon, the resurrection of the St. Charles Inn, and Kate Wolf, who was, for a brief time, their neighbor and friend. They pointed out bullet holes in the ceiling and regaled us with stories of the family of highwaymen who, led by their 5’ tall mother, terrorized the loggers and miners back in the late 1800’s. We heard about the flood of 1997 when the Yuba river flooded their basement with 5 feet of water, took out the bridge to Highway 49, and basically wreaked havoc throughout Sierra County. Mostly, though, we heard about a family who loved each other, stood by each other, and worked together to make the world a better place.
This past week, we were chatting as usual at breakfast about a variety of topics, including religion and politics (I guess people have become true, trusted friends when they can openly discuss religion and politics), when the topic of marriage came up. Tammy said at one point, “Well, I just can’t imagine life without Mark.” Something in the way she said it – her tone, her mannerisms, the timing and context – told me how much she really meant it. My heart was simply and sweetly touched. Her unassuming, heart-felt declaration made it clear to me that she understood, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the doctrine of eternal marriage, even though it had never been formally taught to her in any other way.
The next morning, as I was praying, I felt prompted, even commanded, to offer to pronounce a blessing on the inn, upon their family, and upon all who stay there. As we walked into the dining room for breakfast, I asked Mark if they would allow me to do just that. They quickly said, “Sure!” We went into the living room and I asked if we could kneel. I raised my arm to the square and was given a beautiful, almost tearful blessing to pronounce. I blessed them – actually, the Lord blessed them – that, as long as they continued serving their family, their community, and Jesus Christ as they currently are, then their home would be protected from the influence of a sinful world, from the forces of nature, and from economic hardship. I blessed them that all who entered their home would feel the spirit of peace and be comforted. I was greatly touched by their humility – by their willingness to get on their knees and trust me to pronounce this blessing, in the name of Jesus Christ, upon them. Most people who are not members of the LDS church would consider me to be rather audacious for even suggesting such a thing, but not them. They were simply appreciative. Their love, humility and kindness shined brightly in Goodyear’s Bar that morning.
Mark and Tammy Helms were angels sent to remind me of the importance of humility, of courage, of loyalty and devotion, and of the true meaning of love. Only the most pure, the most humble, and the most virtuous can be used by the Lord to accomplish His purposes. They continue their ministry each day among the people of Goodyear’s Bar and Sierra County, building Zion as they understand it, and they do so with knowledge that, as long as they do, they will be protected and lifted by the Lord.
The next day, on Friday, we learned of a luthier (a guitar craftsman) who lived next door to Mark and Tammy. My next post will tell the story of another pair of angels that we met during our vacation of July, 2014.